Sunday, April 13, 2008

It is Not Good that Man Should Have No Problems

Bob's taking the day off. This is a Sunday morning free-association brought to you by Bob's Unconscious.

Is Life itself soluble? Science obviously solves innumerable little problems, but can it solve the big problem of Life itself?

First of all, life is definitely a problem. While it is surely a "gift," it is a gift that comes with a problem -- somewhat like a child. By its very nature, you can't just enjoy the fun parts and forget about the challenges and difficulties. The main problem of life is how to keep from dying while trying to figure out why it's even worth the bother. Or, it's like trying valiantly to win a complex game at the very same time you are trying to figure out the rules.

Marvelous gift, useless gift, for what purpose were you given us? --Alexander Pushkin

Or, as Bob asked in the book, "Why this living, struggling little sub-universe consisting of mindless circles of lateral mutation? So much variety and yet so little meaningful novelty, the 'mere sport of nature' in a 'vain, unnecessary world,' with all the pointless pageantry and nonexistent morality of a Mike Tyson fight." Bob continues (emphasis mine):

"Before life, there were no problems in the universe -- nothing could go wrong because nothing had to go right. But life's reckless emancipation from matter brought forth a nagging tension, an unresolvable conflict, an inherent incompleteness in the cosmos. In a sense, life was a dis-ease of matter in a literal sense, just as mind is a dis-ease of biology, an alien condition with no backward looking cure (short of death or unconsciousness) that can return it to a state of ease or wholeness. The only way out of this fatal predicament seemed to be forward and inward, in a never-ending balancing act between helpless dependence upon, and open defiance of, matter. Life groped blindly on because that was the only alternative."

Science helps us to go on living. For example, I am very well aware of the fact that Bob is living on borrowed or perhaps stolen time, in that he would have been dead three years ago in the absence of medical developments that have made it so easy for him to control his diabetes. A hundred years ago, someone in our position would have just wasted away in a few months, unable to metabolize sugar. Since adult-onset type 1 diabetes is a completely genetic condition, I'm assuming that this is exactly what happened to many of our distant relatives, if they were lucky enough to live into their 40s. For example, life expectation was only 35 in revolutionary America, and around 47 in 1900. So if we were alive back then, most of us would be dead anyway.

As I said, science is helpless to provide any guidance here. Not only that, but it sows confusion by suggesting that you are wasting your time if you turn to religion to address the problems of Life and Mind. But let's have a look anyway, and see what we can find. At least before Future Leader wakes up, which could be any minute.

According to Genesis, there was a time when life was not problematic. Well, not exactly. The text implies that there was a problem in Eden, and that was man's "aloneness." We shouldn't necessarily jump to the conclusion that the problem was "loneliness," or even that man had the capacity to be aware of his aloneness. Rather, it seems to have been a problem recognized by God, who said that "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (Note that this is the first thing in creation that is said to be "not good"; this is a critical point.)

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but this is where the real problems begin, for as Pastor Elvis sang, Well a hard headed woman / A soft hearted man / Been the cause of trouble / Ever since the world began. In the next verse, Elvis explains the nature of the problem:

Now Adam told Eve,
Listen here to me,
Don't you let me catch you
Messin' round that apple tree
.

So now man has a problem. But, appreciating the irony of the situation, Elvis concludes his homily on Genesis by acknowledging that

I got a woman,
A head like a rock.
If she ever went away
I'd cry around the clock.


So we see how life is ultimately a problem we wish to have. After all, only a tiny minority of us choose suicide or celibacy. The game must be worth the candle, whatever that means.

Anyway, since Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and God immediately recognizes that it is "not good" that Man should be alone, this seems to imply that God knows that it was not good for God himself to have been alone, or allOne. Could it be that the polarity between man and woman somehow repeats the polarity of God and man?

Now, first of all, don't necessarily begin with man and woman; rather, let's think about this in more cosmic terms, by using the universal categories of male and female; or active and passive; or yin and yang; or prakriti and purusha; or shiva and shakti. Or, as it is written in the mostserious Book of Petey,

One in agni & ecstasy has given birth to Two: spirit-matter, earth-sky, knower-known, sun-moon, cats & chicks, Chaos Control, Lennon-McCartney, God & Darwin, Adam & Evolution. A little metaphysical diddling between a cabbala opposites, and Mamamaya! baby makes Trinity, so all the world's an allusion.

While I'm thinking of it, let's turn to a passage in Heller's Creative Tension. He points out that recent developments in deterministic chaos theory have demonstrated that "there are strong reasons to believe that a certain amount of randomness is indispensable for the emergence and evolution of organized structures.... Randomness is no longer perceived as a competitor of God, but rather as a powerful tool in God's strategy of creating the world." He quotes the physicist Paul Davies, who wrote that,

"God is responsible for ordering the world, not through direct action, but by providing various potentialities which the physical universe is then free to actualize. In this way, God does not compromise the essential openness and indeterminism of the universe, but is nevertheless in a position to encourage a trend toward good. Traces of this subtle and indirect influence may be discerned in the progressive nature of biological evolution, for example, and the tendency for the universe to self-organize into a richer variety of ever more complex forms."

In a similar vein, he quotes A. R. Peacocke: "On this view God acts to create the world through what we call 'chance' operating within the created order, each stage of which constitutes the launching pad for the next."

So the bottom line is that if your life were totally planned, it couldn't be. In other words, the more you attempt to tamp down randomness and chance, the more you are likely to create disorder. To put it another way, there is a higher principle at work, which uses randomness and chaos to break up evolutionary impasses and "lure" the system toward its own destiny, so to speak. We must surrender to this destiny, as each of us, to paraphrase Sri Aurobindo, is a "unique problem of God."

Or you could say that "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity," or that twoness resolves the problem of oneness through the discovery and synthesis of eternal threeness, in which Love abides.

Perfect timing. My beautiful problem just woke up. I just hope this post didn't solve anything for you. At least on purpose.

Now, if you haven't got an answer, you'd never have a question
And if you never had a question, then you'd never have a problem
But if you never had a problem, well everyone would be happy
But if everyone was happy, there'd never be a love song
. --Harry Nilsson, Joy

16 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

Too late, Uncon-One!

Anytime you explicate the threeness implicated in O, the "lure" grows more obvious.

Which beckons the solution ... or at least seems to solve my problem.

Thanks!

4/13/2008 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous jwm said...

"there are strong reasons to believe that a certain amount of randomness is indispensable for the emergence and evolution of organized structures.... Randomness is no longer perceived as a competitor of God, but rather as a powerful tool in God's strategy of creating the world."
There is an echo of this in Harold Kushner's book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People
He brings up the random element in human events, and catastrophies as part of the answer to the problem of suffering in the World. I'd say more if I remebered more, but it's been a very long time since I read Kushner's excellent book.

wv: jgodc
wow!

JWM

4/13/2008 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Robin Starfish said...

Lethe
above the tree line
a sun takes root in heaven
too long in exile

4/13/2008 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Sorry for butting in here, but an interesting talk on BookTV... a talk by Christoph Cardinal Schonborn, author of "Chance or Purpose", a TIVO aided quote:

"I must say, I never, never, have met any scientific discovery in all these years, that has been in the slightest way contrary to my faith, but I have very often met... affirmations that are opposed to my faith, but had the pretension to being scientific, but they weren't, they were... what we call in German... weltenschuang... ideology... certainly not exact science.

And then, therefore, one of the main intentions of this book, is... please distinguish clearly, what is natural science... and what is reflection about natural science and its results... distinguish between science and natural philosophy, or science and theology of creation... and we urgently need this distinction, because very often in the debate, this lines are confused... and I am certain that many conflicts come not from science nor from theology, but from the lack of philosophy of nature, the lack of good ... I can safely say in this house...Thomistic formation in philosophy ... we urgently need clarification of what really is the presupposition of scientific research and methodology...."

Anyone ever heard of him or his book? Sounds interesting....

4/13/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Dusty said...

"To put it another way, there is a higher principle at work, which uses randomness and chaos to break up evolutionary impasses and "lure" the system toward its own destiny, so to speak."

I was first introduced to the view "blessed chaos" in The Rosicrucian Cosmo Conception several years back.

Books like this--those constructed on "reading the memory nature," like steiner and theosophy--seem to me as conjectures all throughout. It could be a really dangerous business looking into your own imagination and believing what it showed you, since imagination, being the "membrane of spiritual worlds," mirrors truth and falsity alike.

What's interesting to me is the reconciling of internal revelation (spiritual science) with actual exterior scientific findings. I'm pretty sure most of those people are truely "crack-pots," at least in part.

(not saying that they're all bad, e.g. Steiner)

4/13/2008 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"So the bottom line is that if your life were totally planned, it couldn't be. In other words, the more you attempt to tamp down randomness and chance, the more you are likely to create disorder. To put it another way, there is a higher principle at work, which uses randomness and chaos to break up evolutionary impasses and "lure" the system toward its own destiny, so to speak. We must surrender to this destiny, as each of us, to paraphrase Sri Aurobindo, is a "unique problem of God." "

and in that surrendering, doesn't that randomness continue, but perhaps in relation to your life, rather than your plans?

An odd dream last night, I was riding in the car with my Dad... and was unaware of anything unusual about that (such as his being dead for nearly 10 years now), and he was driving me to go get ... its fading... but I think it was food... and we were riding in his old Continental... he was talking to me as we were driving, but I was listening to the radio, an interview with an old boss of mine about a new business plan, and we stopped at a bldg under the freeway, a very boxy looking building with a warm glowing sign "The Good Life", as we were getting out of the car I became aware of my wallet on the floor... a two dollar bill showing... and I got out and was walking towards the building following my Dad who was going to tell me something... and I said 'hold on' and ran back to the car & got in to listen to the interview while I picked up my wallet... and I woke up... and the immediate, and I mean immediate thought that burst into my mind was "Dad was there! What were you doing with the radio and the wallet! Dad was There!".

Listening directly to the contents of my imagination would be... dangerous... but ignoring it... would be dangerous as well... I think there must be something there worth recoonciling internally... not sure what... but sometimes just contemplating the ... well... poetic, the fruits and roots of imagination... may help gel things, even when there is no answer found.

4/13/2008 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

Sweet!
Sooooo Love gave me problems and my love of wind surfin'. Laid the board down 10 or so years ago; recently picked up a metaphorical one . . . joy.ful rides [when the ether wears off] among the random waves and chance winds.

4/13/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

"Listening directly to the contents of my imagination would be... dangerous... but ignoring it... would be dangerous as well..."

i suppose Bob has discussed it enough,but "an escape hatch to a higher level for mankind"
has never suggested there weren't hazards along the way.

that "the new age" would picture
"the holy" as a free-for-all
has something wrong about it from the start.

interesting dream,van.

i could think of several
interpretations as i was reading through it.

4/13/2008 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger QP said...

For every Adam and Eve - A Sunday Evening Musical Interlude

You will always be, my necessity,
I'd be lost without you!


Complete lyrics here.

4/13/2008 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gumshoe said "...interesting dream,van.i could think of several
interpretations as i was reading through it."

Yeah... kind of hit all the cliche points, didn't it?

Whenever I think I get the obvious point, I try to think of ol' Oedipus on hearing that he's kill his father and marry his mother and came to the obvious conclusion "Ah, well then, I'll just head on out of the country. Problem solved."... whereupon he of course, promptly unknowingly killed his true father, and married his actual mother.

Got to watch out for what is obviously true - if you're lucky, you could wind up like Oedipus, if you're not so lucky, you could wind up a leftist economist ... or even an Obama Mamma "I've got the answer! Change!!!"

4/13/2008 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

How can one have nostalgia for a time before he was even born? I feel a little foolish.

Thanks QP.

Now OT - I think some are just uncomfortable with God's omniscience. They think that if He already knows their every thought, intent and action, long before they ever occur, it somehow limits their free will. For me, the fact that He does know and yet still loves and cares for me is incredibly comforting - and motivating to seek to conform my will with His.

In other words, "...surrender to this destiny." Perhaps.

4/13/2008 09:33:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"By its very nature, you can't just enjoy the fun parts and forget about the challenges and difficulties."

Damnit! Now you tell me!

4/13/2008 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Anyway, since Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and God immediately recognizes that it is "not good" that Man should be alone, this seems to imply that God knows that it was not good for God himself to have been alone, or allOne."

It's also interesting that there was something "not good" before Eve and Adam had Apple Jacks for breakfast.

Most Christians seem to be under the impression that everything "not good" happened after the fall, but this obviously is not the case.

Not to mention there were some Angels, chief among them Lucifer, who were not good, which indicates there is still free will in Heaven,
and things that, if not actually evil, are at least "not good", that have nothing to do with the fall.

I don't really have a point here. I just find it fascinating that so many Christians missed that.

I do wonder what the implications mean.
For example, can Love only exist when man, or God for that matter, isn't alone?

And why wasn't God "enough" for man?
I think I know the answer, but I'm kinda biased, bein' married to a woman and all.
Perhaps that's a meaningless question.

Just thinkin' out loud (tol) here.

4/13/2008 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Actually you kinda answered that further into the post, and in your book.
The question was the wrong one anyway.

4/13/2008 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gumshoe,
I didn't mean to imply that you would give me the 'obvious' answers, just talking about me.

4/14/2008 05:16:00 AM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

van -

no offense taken.

_________________

OT for Bob - i just surfed past this article on Newsweek's website
yesterday(...so no use pretending lack-of-bias,despite the author's effort at 'even-handedness'...)

i was curious about the Culture War's ongoing politicization of psychology and your take on that.

it has a Gulag/religious war
aspect to it,imo...i supose since 9/11 we've seen an increase in this type of psych writing,
and will see yet more as the election approaches.

________________________

MIND MATTERS
Wray Herbert

'Red Mind, Blue Mind?'

What our political views may reveal about our personalities.

Mar 3, 2008 | Updated: 5:24 p.m. ET Mar 3, 2008

http://tinyurl.com/6mvmuh

__________________________

the same author had a recent Newsweek article on "Multi-Tasking"...

the article impressed me as being cotton-candy.

author is a former writer for "Psychology Today".

____________________

BTW -
great book review by Stanley Kurtz
at the Weekly Standard...

'I and My Brother Against My Cousin'

Is Islam the best way to understand the war on terror? Tribalism may offer a clearer view of our enemies' motivations.
by Stanley Kurtz
04/14/2008, Volume 013, Issue 29

http://tinyurl.com/5momov

where Kurtz reviews
"Culture and Conflict in the Middle East' By Philip Carl Salzman.

good article.

4/14/2008 06:53:00 AM  

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